Stricken cruise passengers fly home vowing never to sail again

By James Ihaka, Alanah May Eriksen

More than half of the passengers from the damaged cruise ship Pacific Star flew back to Auckland last night with some vowing never to return to sea.

About 760 of the 1200 P&O passengers returned to Auckland International Airport on two specially chartered flights following a near-disastrous cruise to Vanuatu.

The ship sailed through gale-force winds and swells of up to 10 metres shortly after leaving Auckland last Tuesday despite warnings from MetService of storm-force winds - winds of more than 50 knots.

It is now heading to Brisbane for repairs to its damaged hull.

The remaining passengers are expected to be back in Auckland later today and those not living in the area would be put up in hotels and given help to get back to their homes, said P&O spokeswoman Sandy Olsen.

All of the passengers have been offered full refunds and a cruise credit of 25 per cent. Some told the Herald they are unlikely to take up the offer.

A second Pacific Star cruise scheduled to depart from Auckland for Fiji and Tonga tomorrow has been cancelled as the battered ship returns to Brisbane.

Ms Olsen said the 1160 passengers who had made bookings had also been given full refunds and a 25 per cent credit on future cruises.

She could not give an estimate of the cost of damage to the battered ship.

Quads back on firm ground

Colin and Tanya Magee had taken their 14-year-old quadruplets on the "holiday of a lifetime".

Arriving home late last night, Mr Magee said the holiday had meant two years' saving and was the first time they had been abroad.

When the storm started the Magees and teenagers, Crystal, Jaden, Levi and Casey, were in their rooms.

"I was in bed trying to calm myself down when the theme song from Titanic came on TV," said Mr Magee.

"All but one of the kids were sick, but we couldn't get to them to look after them because we were being sick as well.

"There were people lying in stairwells, queues for the medical centre and people lying on the floor of the restaurant. Why the ship was allowed to set sail I don't know."

Mrs Magee said the family needed recovery time before deciding if they'd go on another Pacific Star cruise.

"It was a lifetime experience - we definitely won't forget it."

Shirley Askham, who works for Idea Services in Whangarei, took a group of 19 intellectually disabled people on the cruise after years of saving.

"I saw elderly people banging their heads and splitting them open. The toilets were flooding out with sewage and the lifts weren't working.

"There was only one dining room open so people were queuing for food and there were people wandering round covered in cuts and bruises."

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